Ok, you’re now Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia. If you can’t handle that role, take the role of a senior ALP machine man. It doesn’t matter because you all have a big decision to make:
When do you call the election?
The maths is easy – the Victorian election is to be held this year on 27 November, so given they’ll have the usual 4 weeks election campaign that rules out every Saturday from 30 October onwards. The footy finals are in September, and you don’t want to do it then because that is the one time of the year when people really don’t give a stuff about politics (and neither do the TV networks), so that rules out all of September and October 2 (the NRL final is on 3 October). And the Commonwealth Games in
Mumbai (Delhi) rule out October 9.
Antony Green tells us:
As the Constitution prevents writs for a half-Senate election being issued before 1 July this year, the first possible date on which a House and half-Senate election can be held is 7 August.
Let’s rule out a Double Dissolution – it is not in the ALP’s interests as it could lead to a more unpredictable Senate, and also they won’t use the ETS as a trigger, though they could use the Medicare rebate threshold, but I doubt it.
Paul Bongiourno on Channel 10 had the inside word from very senior ALP sources that one of the points of the spill was to go to an early eleciton, which also might be why Julia said she would not move into the Lodge until after an election – if she goes early she won’t have to worry about security etc.
If she calls it for 7 August, she would need to call it by 5 July. Given Australia is out of the World Cup, there’s no sport to worry about. So there’s a lot of free air there.
She could also argue that she thinks the Australian people deserve to have a say on who is PM, and thus she is giving it to them as early as possible.
If the polls come out good, this would be a very tempting scenario – especially if she can get some sort of deal on the RSPT.
The problems with this scenario are that she has not yet established herself as “the PM” in the minds of the voters – so she doesn’t have much of an advantage of incumbency (though the ALP will).
The other problem is that this won’t give her much chance to distance herself in any policy way from Kevin Rudd. She would be very wise to have some climate change policy to take to the election - “we’ll do something”, won’t cut it – they need something to counter the Libs’ line about being the only party with a climate change policy.
The advantages of October are that it will allow Parliament to come back for at least two weeks (the last week of August, and first week of September). Parliament gives the PM gravitas, and also allows her to get plenty of nice little grabs on the TV news. The problem is it also gives Abbott a chance to get a grab as well, and the way Question Time is reported on the news, it often makes a lopsided contest appear evenly matched.
So what would you do? I have no idea – because there are good reasons for doing both. It is risky to go early because people might think it cynical. It is risky to wait because any honeymoon period may wear off (though I think this is a smaller risk). But right now, members of the ALP are thinking about this decision. And they know they have to get it right. (One way they might make the decision is to also think what would the Liberal Party least like them to do).
Personally I wish they didn’t have to make the decision at all – it should be fixed terms – keep the terms at three years (the electorate always seems to vote against fixed four year terms). The current system is too much of an advantage to the incumbent.
August or October. Take you pick. Nothing’s riding on it. Just the future of the nation.